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Leaders share Guam's story on Capitol Hill

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While Guam has welcomed numerous government officials as part of congressional delegation visits, island leaders and the business community have also had a chance to make their way to the nation's capitol to share the Guam story. Nearly 30 years ago, the military presence on Guam substantially decreased resulting in the loss of several high paying jobs. As a result, the Guam Chamber of Commerce established the Armed Forces Committee.

"The AFC the goal created 18 years ago was aimed at expanding the military footprint in order to reinvigorate local business and employment opportunities, increase the mix of higher waged jobs that had deteriorated to only low-wage service jobs, and to also help improve the island's economy and tax base," explained Gerry Perez, chairman of the committee.

And from promoting the strategic and economic benefits to the geopolitical value of Guam and the Marianas to the nation - efforts by the committee have definitely grown. In fact, Perez says efforts to promote the committee's agenda have led to annual visits to the nation's capital speaking with key stakeholders. Most recently, a group of five members returned from a visit to the Pacific Command in Hawaii and the Pentagon and Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Perez explained the key takeaways during a Guam Chamber of Commerce membership meeting today, saying, "One of them is sequestration and the budget environment and how that affects the relocation of marines and we found out in talking to several people in the Hill that is the emerging bipartisan support in Congress now."

The visit included meetings with members from the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The second major theme concerned china's territorial assertions in our area their investment in military modernization. The third involved the rebalance issue and the Asian pivot in terms of policy implementation.

Said Perez, "This is the probably the most positive feedback feeling we've had in recent memory with respect to the relocation of Marines to Guam and we sense of a more unified direction both in the congress as well as the administration, and the HASC is pretty optimistic in overcoming sequestration cap as I eluded to earlier. And there's less focus on disagreement and more how, and the philosophy now seems to be how best how to make this thing work cost-effectively."

Members of the AFC were also joined by members of the Guam US Asia Alliance. Perez says it was important to send the Guam message but also expand the Guam agenda beyond the Pentagon and Capitol Hill and reach thinktank resources.

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